Digital Decompression: 5 Great Video Game Themed Board Games

Author: Dylan Shearer   Date Posted:20 March 2018 

Not all games are created equal, and clearly board games are superior right? RIGHT?! Well, we all have to start somewhere. Video games is where I started. They’re close to my heart as some of the greatest stories I’ve ever experienced came at the hands of these electronic past times. But what do video games mean to board game players? How can you bring that video game flavour to the table? Well, check out the list below to see where you can start adding the video game flair to your game shelf.

Fallout: Board Game

Both Pedro and I have talked about it before, but the Fallout: Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games is one of the best translations of a video game into board game that I’ve seen.

The SPECIAL system implemented in Fallout: BG has its own flavour while still feeling true to the original’s style. With each encounter tying into the seven different attributes as necessary, it is a simple and effective way to create a character-specific skill system.

And then we have the story. Taking a page of the narrative-system games like Mage Knight or the extremely successful 7th Continent. Fallout has a deck of numbered cards that have  stories, quests and encounters printed on them. These cards will be pulled out of the deck and staged next the board as quests or added to encounter decks to discover during the game. This is how the story of the game is told and being able to translate that narrative element found in the original video games, as well as presenting the quirkiness found throughout the Fallout universe in a simple mechanic.

The Witcher: Adventure Game

The Witcher is a game series that captured my heart once I finally made it through the tutorial in Assassin of Kings, and the follow-up, Witcher 3, is easily one of the best games sitting on my shelf. The characters; the world; the monsters; investigations; hunts; so much of this game drew me in. So, when I had the opportunity to play The Witcher: Adventure Game from Fantasy Flight Games, I immediately jumped at the chance. And what a game.

In The Witcher: Adventure Game, you take control of one of the four key characters in the Witcher series; Geralt of Rivia, Triss Merigold, Dandelion, and Yarpen Zigrin; each of which has their own advantages and disadvantages.The key to the game is completing a number of quests before your fellow players, with each quest creating its own challenges and rewards. You do that through accruing investigation tokens, which you can then convert to proof towards the quest.

The Witcher: Adventure Game is more akin to a solo adventure game than a competitive one, as there is little interaction outside of the quest assistance. But that doesn’t detract from the game, because the negative impacts you throw on other players have a chance of backfiring onto you. The game translates the constant doom and gloom found in Sapkowski's world through the Foul Fate tokens, that you generate through extra movement, losing encounters with monster’s you’re unprepared for, or just investigating a dead end. I’m yet to play a game that wasn’t hampered immensely by these Foul fates, but it’s worth it.

This War of Mine

Have you played This War of Mine on your PC yet? If you haven’t, go get it. It’s a fantastic strategic management game about survival. And it’s not meant to be ‘fun’. But it is an experience. It’s depressing, it’s dark, and you have one objective: Survive.

Well, in 2016, 11 Bit Studios teamed up with Awaken Realms to Kickstart the tabletop version. And, while there is a bit of a hiccup in performing our first setup (the manual can be a little confusing at first), it doesn’t take long to understand the rhythm of the game. During the day you clear and build your base. In the evening you eat. At night you scavenge. But, that rhythm of going through the motions is not really where you want to be. Because that’s where you get complacent.

The first time I played this, Pedro and I spent maybe around 30 minutes going through the setup and checking the manual every step of the way to make sure we were playing it right (mainly because TWoM uses a “Play Out Of The Box” system instead of the traditional game manual). And then, on our first night of scavenging, we killed two out of three survivors. No rolls. No checks. They just straight up died scrounging in a recently shelled building.

That’s when I remembered I was playing This War of Mine. No one wins when you play this game. You only survive.

Civilization: New Dawn

Regular players in the store know that I have a challenge available to those not familiar with the Civilization board games that can net you a free drink out the fridge. All you have to do is grab the 2010 Civilization game from Fantasy Flight Games from the library, and perform the following:

  • Setup the game correctly
  • Perform one full round of turns
  • Explain to me that turn
  • Explain to me how combat works correctly
  • Do the above within 45 minutes of opening the box

I have lost this challenge once when the group managed to finish the challenge at 42 minutes and 14 seconds. Everyone else has either failed, or given up at the 30 minute mark. This is a game that absolutely sucks for the board game environment.

So imagine my trepidation when Civilization: A New Dawn was announced last year by Fantasy Flight Games. Was this going to be another poor translation of the game? Well, Jennah, being a Civ tragic, grabbed hold of a copy as soon as it came out. And A New Dawn is everything that makes Civilization a great game, in a tight, refined 45 minute experience.

Firstly, gone is the complex combat systems. Civilization was never really about world domination. And the combat here is nice and tight. Get a bonus for the difficulty of the terrain, roll a dice, add some bonuses that may apply, did my dice beat your dice? I win, moving on.

Barbarians roam around the board, removing whatever is in their way, and if you don’t settle or control their camps, they’ll come right back to annoy you, and there are city states that will trade to you.

The greatest piece of the game is the action-selection mechanic. Each of the five possible actions are laid out across a focus bar that set the value of the action and terrain type that the action can be performed on. Once the action has been used, it gets reset back to the first position and the other actions are moved along the bar to make space. This system makes the game fast and strategic without losing the depth of Civilization.

Essentially, A New Dawn takes the core of Civilization (the empire expansion, scientific advancement, and wonder construction) and creates its own board game, rather than walking the ill-beaten path of translating the computer game onto the tabletop that so many of its predecessors failed miserably at doing, and it is so much fun.

Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game

What makes Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game one of the greatest video game-themed board games is that it does not have much to do with its source material. Sure, it has portals, test subjects, and cake, but Portal will not have you jumping off platforms and using inertia. Instead, you’ll be playing a form of mind-bending chess.

In Portal, your goal is to get as many pieces of cake onto the board before the game ends, which happens either when a player has no test subjects in the chambers, or when a player’s cake has been completely incinerated.

Each turn, you go through 4 simple phases. Deploy an action card from your hand (which will also add a game-changing rule to the game); Move test subjects from one chamber to another (with the portals allowing you to move them even further around the board); Activate a chamber and give the printed rewards to the player with the most subjects in that chamber; then Recycle the chamber, returning any test subjects on there to a player’s pool, incinerating any cake left behind, and then placing the recycled tile at the other end of the board.

Portal will test you. With its tongue-in-cheek humour, and the constantly changing playspace, each turn becomes more about getting a benefit immediately rather than trying to pay the long game.

Upcoming Games

Here a few upcoming games that are also based on our electronic cousins that haven’t hit the shelves yet, but are definitely ones to keep an eye out for.

Dark Souls: The Card Game is a simplified way to play the ever-difficult Dark Souls. Built as a cooperative deck evolution game, you have to work with your fellow payers to defeat the encounters and claim the treasure. You can find more info at http://steamforged.com/ds-tcg/

Hand of Fate: Ordeals is the tabletop-version of the ever-loved (and Brisbane-developed) Hand of Fate series from Defiant Development. In HoF: Ordeals, you take control of an adventurer making their way through the adventure either working together your fellow players, or against them. Being both a fan of the original video game series, and of the prototypes that were floating around the Vault store early in development, I look forward to finally having it hit the table.

Fallout: Wasteland Warfare is a miniature skirmish-scale wargame from Modiphius Entertainment that takes back to the post-apocalyptic wasteland that has captured my heart since I booted up the original Fallout on Windows 98. Modiphius has really knocked it out of the park here. Not only have they managed to bring in the role-playing aspect of the game through equipment degradation and SPECIAL-based skill checks, but there models look stunning. I can’t wait to get a few Mirelurk Queens on table to eat some Vault Dwellers.